COVID-19 Briefing Minister of Health's Remarks 3 November 2021

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

Good afternoon.

Over the past few weeks, our COVID statistics have improved. Although we have reported coronavirus related deaths, we have also seen fewer active cases. While we cannot become complacent, I am optimistic that things will continue to get better. And for things to continue to get better, we must all do our part and follow the public health guidance.

As we move on and learn how to live with COVID-19 in our midst, our technical updates will be less frequent. I envision holding briefings only when we have more information than a press release can appropriately provide and when we have important announcements.

We have completed week 42 of vaccinations. Since January 11th, Bermuda has administered a total of 95,829 vaccinations.

Of the 95,829 vaccinations given as of October 30:

  • 52% are women and,
  • 48% are men

86.0% of all residents over the age of 65 years have had at least one vaccination, and 84.5% are fully immunised.

To date, 70.6% of the population has been vaccinated (1 dose), and 69.0% of the population has been immunised (2 doses).

From January 11, 2021, when Bermuda’s vaccine campaign began, to Epi Week 43 ending October 30, 2021, Bermuda’s Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons are as follows:

Hospitalisations [including repeat admissions] totalled 303 of which:

  • 269 or 89% were persons who were not fully vaccinated, and,
  • 34 or 11% were fully vaccinated.

To October 30, Bermuda has also sadly had 91 deaths, of which:

  • 78 or 86% were not fully vaccinated
  • 13 or 14% were fully vaccinated

As I have said on many occasions, the COVID-19 vaccine remains our best defence in preventing the spread of this virus. It will decrease symptoms and severe illness and, in most cases, prevent death. I encourage everyone who has questions about COVID-19 and the vaccine to please talk to their doctor.

If you want to be vaccinated, please register your interest as soon as possible on gov.bm/vaccines.

There are many opportunities and locations to get your 1st or 2nd dose and boosters for those who are eligible.

One of the issues we are seeing is people not showing up for their second dose appointment. If you’re scheduled to receive your second dose, please do not miss your appointment.

If you need to change your appointment or if you have concerns or are simply afraid, call the Vaccination Hotline at 444 2498 (option #2) or email vaccine@gov.bm as soon as you can so that we can assist with any concerns you have and to re-schedule your appointment.

Those who have decided to get vaccinated can book an appointment or walk into the KEMH Vaccination Clinic on Tuesday and Thursday, 4 to 7 pm, and Saturday, 8 am to 4 pm. Medical doctors will be at KEMH to answer any questions about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccinations are also available at the Hamilton Health Centre, 67 Victoria Street, every Tuesday from 2 – 4 pm. These vaccinations are by appointment only, no walk-ins. You can get your 1st, 2nd or 3rd dose. Call 332-8906 for assistance in scheduling an appointment, or you can book online at www.gov.bm/vaccines.

I will now provide an update on the expansion of the booster programme.

During the months of November and December, the KEMH booster clinics will be held on Wednesdays 8am - 8pm and Sundays 8-8pm by appointment only and no walk-ins. The last booster clinic at KEMH will be on December 22nd.

Currently, booster vaccines are available for healthcare workers and essential and critical service workers who have had a second dose at least six months prior.

For the avoidance of doubt, essential and critical workers include: Hospital Staff, Healthcare workers, Police Officers, Fire Service, Bermuda Regiment, Prison Officers,

Utility workers (Electricity, Communications, Water), Stevedores, and other essentials such as teachers.

Tomorrow Thursday 4th November, the booster programme will move to the next level of service. The programme will expand to all 50 year olds and older and all those with chronic conditions between the ages of 12 and 49 and these conditions include:

  • Active treatment for cancer
  • Chronic Kidney diseases
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Chronic neurological diseases including dementia
  • Diabetes (types 1 and 2)
  • Serious Congenital diseases including Down syndrome, sickle cell disease and thalessemia
  • Chronic Cardiovascular diseases including heart failure, Coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathies and hypertension
  • Other immunocompromising conditions
  • Chronic Liver disease
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Chronic Cerebrovascular disease including strokes
  • Substance use disorders
  • The homeless

Pregnant women who have had a second dose at least six months prior can also make an appointment for a booster.

Additionally, those aged 65 or older who have had the second dose over 6 months ago can walk into Pier six between 10am and 5pm to get a booster shot this week Monday- Friday.

The expansion of the programme ensures all those that are eligible for a booster can now make an appointment for the booster shot.

To book an appointment for a booster vaccine, please visit the government website link gov.bm and select “Book a Booster Vaccine Appointment.

Please ensure you are eligible to book your appointment. Anyone who books an appointment and is not eligible, will be turned away when they arrive.

So far, 5,512 boosters have been administered and we have many more to do.

As a reminder, starting on Monday, November 8, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travellers will need to show proof of full vaccination as well as a pre-departure negative coronavirus test taken within three days of travel before they can board a plane to the United States.

As I mentioned at the beginning, we are having to learn how to live with Covid because it will be with us for a long time – both locally and globally.

The Ministry is once again reviewing its indicators to determine what metrics can be used to provide as early a warning as possible of future waves of infection. These reviews are carried out on a regular basis, and the current focus on our public health measures is for the purpose of helping all of us have the ability to sustain a ‘new normal’ in living with COVID-19.

I must emphasise, though, that success in dealing with COVID-19 is a community effort. It is one of the few situations where an individual’s decision to adhere to public health measures – or not – impacts all of us. In this pandemic, individual decisions can have island-wide consequences. This is not like wearing a helmet or using your seatbelt: this is much more impactful.

Before I end, I must emphasise that antigen tests do not and will not replace the PCR test the Ministry of Health uses for diagnostics. The PCR test is the gold standard. If you are experiencing symptoms, you must book a PCR test to be sure.

Just this week, someone with symptoms got a negative result on an antigen test and subsequently tested positive once getting a PCR test.

Antigen tests are a rapid screening tool, and a positive antigen result should be followed up immediately with a confirmatory test by PCR. Antigen tests cannot be used to second-guess public health instructions to quarantine or isolate. Public Health tests are based on PCR test results or a risk assessments by the Ministry of Health Officers.

We have lost over 100 people to coronavirus-related illnesses. More Bermudians have died due to COVID than lives lost in both world wars combined and over a shorter period of time.

The Bermuda Government will hold a memorial service next week in memory of those who have passed. This is an opportunity for the entire community to pause and remember those who lost their lives due to this pandemic. We will provide further details on this Memorial event in the coming days.

As a reminder, starting on Monday, November 8, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travellers will need to show proof of full vaccination as well as a pre-departure negative coronavirus test taken within three days of travel before they can board a plane to the United States.

Please remember, we must all do our part to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Continue to follow public health guidelines, wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene, maintain physical distance and download the WeHealth Bermuda app.

Thank you, and we look forward to having another technical briefing in the coming weeks.

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